Use Adobe PDF to share Latvian documents

In today’s electronic age we constantly share information using the telephone, fax and e-mail. E-mail is emerging as the clear winner because of its low cost and immediacy: type a message, attach a file, click a button and a few minutes later your intended recipient has the information.

The information you attach to the e-mail message can be a photograph, document, spreadsheet or even a multimedia clip. All the recipient of your message needs to open the attachment is software associated with the attachment. But if the recipient doesn’t have the proper software, he or she is basically stuck or will have to purchase the required software. The most effective solution for Latvian users is Adobe’s Portable Document Format.

Pioneered by Adobe Inc. in the early 1990s, PDF preserves all of the fonts, formatting, colours and graphics of any source document, regardless of the application and computer platform used to create it. Adobe PDF files are compact and can be shared, viewed, navigated and printed exactly as intended by anyone with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software now used by more than 300 million users. The Adobe Acrobat Reader is available for Apple Computer’s Mac OS 8.6-9.2 and Mac OS X; Microsoft Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, ME and XP, as well as Unix and several mobile devices.

Several months ago I prepared some advertisements to send from our Melbourne office to several Lithuanian newspapers based in Chicago and Toronto. These ads were created in Adobe PageMaker page layout software and contained high resolution type and artwork that would need to be reproduced at the best possible newspaper quality. I saved the ads to a PDF file and e-mailed the attachment to each of the newspapers. Just to confirm that they had received the files I also asked them to print out a copy on their local printers and fax it back to me. What used to take one to two weeks I was now able to accomplish in less than 24 hours and in the end achieve a better quality result. My other options would have been to fax the ad (which would have resulted in a blurry and less than satisfactory ad), snail-mail the copy one to two weeks earlier (making last-moment changes in a multiple-week ad campaign nearly impossible) or send it as a rather large PageMaker or Microsoft Word attachment but not be guaranteed of the end result.

Many government offices, larger corporations and libraries around the world have already standardised on the PDF format. PDF files are the preferred format for storing documents on the World Wide Web. Because PDF documents are not normally alterable and retain the original formatting they are the ideal archiving solution for the legal profession. Books, catalogs, reports, flyers, newsletters, promotional brochures and memos cluttering our desks can all be easily converted to PDF files. The built- in compression of PDF means that the file sizes are typically five to 10 times smaller than other formats and are also less likely to contain unexpected viruses.

Rīgas Laiks is one of the first Latvian magazines to offer a PDF version for Latvians to enjoy worldwide. The Melbourne Latvian Society last year published a limited number of its 50th anniversary book, but at the same time produced a PDF version that—unlike the hard copy version—contains full colour photos and is fully searchable and browsable from a CD-ROM.

In fact, anyone thinking of publishing in Latvian—whether it is a Latvian organisation preparing its latest newsletter or minutes from the last meeting or a budding author keen to publish his or her memoirs while keeping within a reasonable budget—should seriously be considering the PDF format.

So how do you make a document into a PDF document? The latest versions of Word have the ability to do this (select the “Create Adobe PDF” from the File menu or click on the “Create Adobe PDF” icon in the toolbar), even without the full version of Acrobat. The full version of Acrobat lets you take any print output from any program and make it into a PDF. When you install the full version of Acrobat, it creates a virtual printer called “Acrobat Distiller.” When you want to make a PDF you just choose “Acrobat Distiller” as your printer, give the file a name and tell the computer where you want to have the file sent to when it is created. Once you have created a group of PDF files it is easy to merge them together, pull out pages or create new files that contain only selected pages from a larger PDF document.

If you are on a shoestring budget and wish to create PDF files from your word processor or page layout program you can use the freeware utility Ghostscript (available for both Macintosh and Windows) which will convert Postscript files to PDF files.

Other inexpensive solutions are Free PDF Creator, WordtoPDF and PDF2Mail for Windows and PrinttoPDF for the earlier Macintosh versions. If you are using special or non-standard fonts you might need to choose the option whereby the fonts become embedded into the final PDF file.

Mac OS X users have the best deal because PDF capabilities have been built right into the operating system: simply click on the “Save as PDF” button from the print dialog of an application and a few moments later a PDF version of your document will be created.

Several online PDF services are available from as low as USD 1.99 per document, but in general these won’t work that well in Latvian unless they are using standard Unicode fonts or you are able to supply them with your special Latvian fonts.

The next time you shoot out an e-mail with an attachment, think about your audience by ensuring the document is in a format that anyone can open. Not everyone chooses to use Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. Information is only valuable if it is fully accessible.

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